Steeplechase racing makes every Thursday special. But this Thursday there were two steeplechase races and at least two other occurrences to make the day extra special.
As part of the 11-race card, Saratoga hosted the grade II, $200,000 With Anticipation Stakes and the debut of Archwarrior. Archwarrior, of course, was Alto Racing’s son of Arch that’s been heralded to be the fastest 2-year-old in trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn. He’s worked bullets. In addition, he failed to make the entries twice before at the meet, so the “How good is he?” factor figured.
There were more people in the walking ring for the third to see Archwarrior than in the upper deck of Tropicana Field to witness Mitt Romney’s nomination acceptance. One Blood-Horse magazine scribe, completing his two-week stay at the Spa, said the scene had the air of a horse sale, which often occurs in these circumstances. Pletcher refuted suggestions that Archwarrior was a one-turn speedball by saying that the colt, an impressive wave-of-the-stick, one and three-quarters length winner at six furlongs, is destined to improve as the races get longer.
Archwarrior ready to do battle for first time.
Cubist, in his sixth start over fences, won the four-turn $75,000 Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords Steeplechase Stakes for owner/trainer Jonathan Sheppard after You the Man won a 2 1/16 miles claiming hurdle race. The two events closed out the official Saratoga season for the jumpers.
Balance the Books made a furious dash from last to first to better Joha by a head in the With Anticipation. Julien Leparoux got the call and made certain that the late running son of Lemon Drop Kid would arrive in time for the trophy. He failed the last time he tried. Balance the Books, trained by Chad Brown, was an also-eligible entrant.
The With Anticipation is a good name for a stakes race for 2-year-olds. Like the upcoming Hopeful Stakes (gr. II) on closing day Monday, it expresses what horse racing’s about. Who was it that said, “No man with a promising 2-year-old in his barn commits suicide?”
The only other race worth mentioning is between Pletcher and Brown for leading trainer. Pletcher is expected to win. But Brown is only six victories behind him in the standings with nearly 40 fewer starts.
The weather continues to cooperate. Only the New York Racing Association’s marketing team and their public relations agency are complaining of a rough shake from Mother Nature. They’re right that it’s rained on some key dates. Yet, D. Wayne Lukas has saddled winners more often at the meet than rain has interfered with anything. He’s had two.
Post time on Friday is 2:30 p.m. NYRA hopes the late start accommodates weekend travelers. Lawrence Foley of Southport, Conn., the father of child actress Clare Foley who will soon to appear in the 2013 release of “Shakespeare’s Daughter,” is here already.
Vic Zast is the author of The History and Art of 25 Travers. He has attended the races at Saratoga for 47 straight years.